Backed fighters launch final push to defeat IS in Syria
Feb 10 2019
The Observatory says ISIS sleeper cells are suspected of assassinating at least 50 civilians and 135 SDF fighters in Kurdish-held territory since August.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, did not indicate how soon he expected the civilian evacuation to be completed, Reuters reported, noting that most of the civilians are family members of ISIS militants.
Recent gains by Kurdish-led forces in Syria have shrunk the Islamic State group's "caliphate" to less than one percent of its original size, the US-led coalition said on February 7.
In the past week and a half, more than 20,000 civilians have been evacuated from the besieged area.
US President Donald Trump predicted on Wednesday that ISIS will have lost all of its territory by next week.
"They are attempting to escape through intermixing with the innocent women and children attempting to flee the fighting", coalition deputy commander Christopher Ghika said on Thursday.
"There hasn't been any big advance or change on our side over the past 5 days", an SDF spokesman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday.
"This battle will be sealed in the coming days", he added. "This was the foreign fighter element, some of his most trusted people", the intelligence source reportedly said.
Islamic State redrew the map of the Middle East in 2014 when it declared a caliphate across large areas of Syria and Iraq.
America's allies on the ground announced the start of what they're calling the final battle against remaining ISIS holdouts after allowing thousands of civilians to flee.
"Remnants - that's all they have, remnants - but remnants can be very risky", Trump said.
Estimates of the number of fighters remaining in the pinprick of territory vary wildly from dozens to hundreds, but they are thought to include some of the most die-hard and committed extremists who have remained with the group to the bitter end.
Among the policy decisions still to be made was what to do about the tens of thousands of Syrian Kurdish fighters that USA forces had trained, armed and advised to carry out the ground war against the Islamic State.
The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the civil war, instead of developing semi-autonomous institutions in northern and northeastern Syria.
"We are not discussing the timeline of the United States withdrawal from Syria", Navy Commander Sean Robertson told the Journal.